Program to Help Families Facing Food Insecurity Underway in Merced County


(Merced, California) – Thanks to a $90,873 grant from the Central California Alliance for Health, Valley Children’s Healthcare and the Merced County Food Bank launched an innovative program this week to help families facing one of the leading health threats in Central California – food insecurity. Lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle affects one in three children in Merced County.

Through the project, Valley Children’s physicians at Olivewood Pediatrics in Merced will screen all patients for food insecurity. Those found at risk will receive a “Prescription for Food,” a voucher redeemable for a 30-pound box of nutritious and healthy food options from the Merced County Food Bank. This resource will be provided on a monthly basis to families identified as food insecure for a whole year. Grant money from the Central California Alliance for Health will help the Food Bank cover the cost of food purchases for these distributions. Patients and families will also be provided with a list of food resources and federal nutrition assistance programs available to them in Merced County.

“Individuals who are food insecure lack access to affordable and healthy foods which leads to adverse effects on health and development,” says Valley Children’s Community Health Specialist Simran Kaur. “As a healthcare provider, we recognize the importance of addressing the root cause and our ‘Prescription for Food’ program provides much-needed access to healthy food options for our patients and families.”

“It is critically important that the community works together to address this crisis,” says Merced County Food Bank Executive Director Bill Gibbs. “Our new partnership with Valley Children's Healthcare and the Central California Alliance for Health directly addresses childhood food insecurity, and we are very thankful to have them standing side-by-side with us in the fight against hunger in our community.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who live in households that are food insecure are likely to be sick more often, recover from illness more slowly and are hospitalized more frequently. The “Prescription for Food” program aims to integrate community resources into healthcare delivery to improve the health and wellbeing of patients and their families. The program’s goal is to increase access and consumption of healthy and nutritious foods. 

Olivewood Pediatrics is part of Valley Children’s Medical Group. It is located near Olive Avenue and R Street in Merced. Dr. Carlos Diaz, Dr. Michelle Porras and staff offer a wide variety of pediatric primary care services for patients, from birth to adolescence. This includes well exams, sick visits, immunizations and sports physicals. They are currently taking new patients with all insurance plans (including Medi-Cal). For more information on Olivewood Pediatrics, please call 209-490-4620. 

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